It’s the end of May 2015, we left the UK this time on 13th April and we’ve just reached the Spandau District of Berlin. It seems like longer than 6 and a half weeks and the shivering, prepping and loading with consumables of the boat in Holland feels like much longer ago!
Another Meander….a little bigger than us!
Deer rescue operation
The journey through Holland and into Germany was a little tedious, not on the most interesting of waterways or through the most delightful towns and villages that we’ve seen before but we did enjoy a few nights at Groningen and I had an adventure on a train to Delfzjil to buy a German chart. I was quite apprehensive about getting lost or getting the wrong train in a country where I couldn’t speak the language but it was absolutely fine. As we left Groningen, we saw a commotion going on with the boat ahead of us, it turned out that a deer had fallen into the river and was unable to climb out because the banks were too steep. The crew on the boat managed to corral it to the edge of the water where a team of environmental personnel were waiting, one of whom was in diving gear. It was taken out of the water, wrapped in an emergency blanket and that was the last we saw of it, hope it didn’t die of shock.
There then followed a few intense days of wending our way along narrow canals which we did as a convoy of three, with a team of men following on scooters/bikes to open bridges and prepare locks for us. Locks were tight, in one of which we had to breast up to a small cruiser as there was no other room for us, nerves were a little jangled but all was fine.
Coming up to Synagogue Brugge, the first one we had to remove the bimini for (but not the last!
A tight squeeze in the locks!
Little and large! Approaching our first marina in Germany
A commercial being loaded with grain
Braunschweig……….the “Funny House”
Chief dog walker, typical towpath on the Mittelland
Lakeside Church, Brandenburg
Blue Peter style sunshade for the ipad, works a treat!
Yikes….waiting to go in our first big lock
A surprise visitor one day
Happy travellers (when the sun shines!)
We finally reached Germany in a howling gale on 5th May and holed up in a marina in Haren for a few days to sit out the weather. We had a couple of days of gales and thunderstorms during which we lost my home made cover for the outboard motor. It was the wrong colour for Meander anyway! More to the point I nearly lost my husband who almost fell in when a thunderbolt struck nearby making him jump and stagger against the rails in the already horrendous wind.
Hoorah, first glimpse of the Mittelland canal on the left at last
Floating Bollards, our new best friends in deep lock.
After a much calmer cruise along the Dortmund Ems canal and having three humungous locks all to ourselves (phew) we finally arrived at the Mittelland canal, the equivalent of a 300k motorway which took us right across the north of the country to the east. Heavily used by commercial traffic we were again a little apprehensive of how we’d cope but it was a doddle, always somewhere to moor, industrialised in many places but also pleasant green countryside in others. On leaving one mooring on Thursday 14thMay we noticed at first a few and then more and more groups of young people walking along the towpath swigging from bottles and pulling handcarts laden with crates of beer/wine etc. There must have been thousands of them all told, some with boom boxes with music blaring out, one even had a patio umbrella over it with bras hanging from the spokes, wish we had taken a photo! We wondered what on earth was going on, it turned out to be Father’s Day and Ascension Day and this is the traditional celebration. Later that day we moored at a small restaurant haven with music and a BBQ going on and had our first taste of Bratwurst….delicious it was too.
We passed through Hannover, unfortunately the weather was not conducive to cycling into the city centre from the mooring but a few days later we did stop to discover the interesting town of Braunschweig by bike. At almost the end of the Mittelland we met up with Mandy and Chris Lefevre at a pleasant little marine in Haldensleben They were on their way to Berlin in their motorhome, having lived in Berlin for several years when Chris was posted there. They told us of their experiences of the 9thNovember 1989 as they were living there when the wall came down. We first met them on our trip to Morocco in 2012 and haven’t seen them since but have kept in touch via facebook. We had a good old chin wag of an afternoon and evening and shared a BBQ on the boat, they left the next morning and we stayed on another day to rest up before the next leg of our journey. Ironically, they have now left Berlin and are back in Holland and we’re just arriving, such is the pace of boating life!
Mandy, Chris and I frog watching
Our froggy stowaway
Yours truly driving taking the helm on a 1k aqueduct
Anything that floats!
The Mittelland canal hands over to the Elbe Havel after a long aqueduct and a very deep lock but then suddenly we arrived in outer Berlin’s lake district area which is a whole new ball game. Ahead were all kinds of craft, criss crossing in front and around us, floating bungalows, yachts, private boats, hire boats, trip boats, water taxis, ferries, even pedaloes ……As we reached Brandenburg on yet another public holiday weekend we could find nowhere with room for us to moor. Having had a long day and still on the move at 6.30 p.m. we decided there was nothing for it but to spend our first night at anchor, we’d seen many many boats doing just this on the lakes we’d traversed. How hard could it be? Fortunately the wind dropped overnight and all was fine, we did re-anchor a couple of hours after our first attempt as it seemed we were moving sideways but all was good in the end. Nigel stayed up on “anchor watch”, bunking down in the saloon but came to bed at 3.30 when the night became perfectly calm and still. One thing about being at anchor of course is that the dogs still have to have somewhere for a comfort break so the dinghy had to be deployed twice for that….and not by me!
Comfort break time for the dogs when we anchored
Our next stop was Potsdam, two nights at a little yachthaven and three nights at a free quay nearer to the town centre. Again we’ve explored and stocked up with shopping by bike and today we’ve just had a short hop up to Spandau where Nigel wanted to be able to cycle to a chandler that has been recommended to us by another boater. We really need a stern anchor as well for next time so that we don’t swing about as much. Whilst around the Potsdam area we had a cycle to Sanssouci Park which was commissioned by Frederick the Great. It was very beautiful, splendidly laid out with formal and informal gardens, splendid palaces and fountains. There was only a portion of it we were able to see as bikes are curtailed to particular areas and as Nigel can’t walk far we had to stick to the limited cycle trail.
British War cemetary
This morning we cycled to a nearby Commonwealth War Cemetery….a very moving experience, the average age of those buried there was 22, mostly RAF, much younger than both my boys which highlights to me the terrible waste of life on all sides.
It must be 6 weeks since we drove a car, shopping is done either on foot or by bike and as I am also sole dog walker I’m getting plenty of exercise which is helping to keep the weight off. I’m trying very hard not to welcome any of those unwanted kilos back! Cycling incidentally is a pleasure in Germany, like in Holland there are many cycle paths, cycling is allowed and even encouraged on many pavements and main roads have well marked cycle lanes. Car and bus drivers are very respectful of cyclists who usually have right of way.
And our weather…..yesterday was one of the warmest days we’ve had so far, I actually wore a tee shirt all day and didn’t need an extra layer. It’s not cracking the flags but it was pleasant yesterday, much warmer that those early days in Holland when we were spending ages mopping up condensation every morning and needing the heating on in the evenings.